You may have heard the exciting news regarding the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) approval of a new form of mobile giving for federal campaigns. After much debate, the FEC’s final ruling now allows for campaigns and political action committees to receive up to $50 per billing cycle in contributions through a simple text message. There is no need for a credit card or writing a check – the contribution will be charged straight to the users’ wireless bill.
This is similar to what nonprofits did to raise money in response to natural disasters through a simple text message. The Red Cross is the most well known example and the group that first took advantage of this giving system with the help of Revolution Messaging’s own partner, Doug Busk. Busk pioneered this mobile payment gateway in 2004. Since its inception, the Red Cross raised millions of dollars of aid and instant relief with mobile contributions
While the above example is inspiring, and has political campaigns on the edge of their seat around the 2012 cycle, there are still a lot of questions up in the air that we must be cognizant of. First and foremost, while the FEC may have approved this donation structure, that does not mean we can start mobile giving programs right away. The mobile giving solution was created in 2004, but it took carriers until 2008 to figure out all the details of how payments will work, when the donations would be delivered, etc. Even with an accelerated timeline, this is not an overnight process.
Why would the carriers take that long to figure everything out? Because there is a lot more that goes into this form of mobile payment than meets the eye. A major question that needs to be answered is what will the percentage be that the carriers will take as a result of doing their part in this system? Currently, there is an industry fair market value rate of between a 30% and 50% take for premium text message services, such as horoscopes and ringtones.
The carriers need to be careful when they are setting a fair market value rate for political giving campaigns because they can’t play favorites by giving a lower rate to one political campaign’s mobile program over another. A major factor that will need to be weighed by anyone working in politics is will this new fee structure be worth it? Especially when there are other forms of mobile payment available that have a lower fee charged on the donation.
As you can see, the FEC’s approval is just the first step in figuring out how we can successfully and efficiently implement a mobile giving system for political campaigns. What would help move this process along? Having one or more of the carriers weigh in publicly on their plans, or even the FCC outline their preference on guidelines for the industry.
So for now, we should all be cautiously excited at the thoughts of where mobile fundraising will be at the end of 2012. It’s an exciting new frontier to see mobile political contributions quickly evolving and the FEC should be thanked for pushing this issue forward.
Topics Elections, Mobile, Mobile Carriers, Mobile Giving, Revolution Messaging, SMS